- More than 6,000 Season Pass Members showed up for Friday's Uniform Schowcase at Raymond James Stadium
- Fans enjoyed complimentary concessions and the opportunity to meet some of the newest Buccaneers
- The Bucs are appealing to a new generation with their updated look and their aggressive moves in free agency
Michael Johnson has one favorite element of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new uniform, and it's not what you would think.
The Buccaneers held a Uniform Showcase for their Season Pass Members on Friday night at Raymond James Stadium, an event that lured a capacity crowd of more than 6,000 fans into the stadium's West Club Lounge. Those passionate Buc fans spent more than three hours in the Club Lounge snapping pictures with the newest Tampa Bay players, enjoying complimentary food and beverages and taking advantage of discounted deals on new Buc merchandise. They also thronged in front of the stage to get a first live look at the team's new uniforms on actual Buccaneer players, with Gerald McCoy, Doug Martin and Alterraun Verner serving as the models.
The event was exclusive and unprecedented for Season Pass Members, but it also drew nearly 20 Buccaneer players, both returning veterans and newcomers recently inked in free agency. Johnson, the prized defensive end signed away from Cincinnati on the first day of free agency, was one of those new Bucs on hand. Like the thousands of fans in attendance, he was getting his first extended look at such new-uniform elements as the pewter-shouldered jerseys, the chrome face mask, the extra-large helmet logos and the custom-designed number fonts.
As much as Johnson appreciated those uniform elements – or the "BUCS" and pirate ship logos on the shoulder or the reflective trim on the numbers – one thing stood out above the rest.
"I like that it says 'Buccaneers,'" said Johnson with a wide smile.
Season Pass Members saw the Bucs' new uniforms as worn by players for the first time on Friday night
Johnson is obviously excited to be part of a team that is getting a new start in so many ways, from the coach to the general manager to the uniform to the free agency-enhanced roster. That was precisely the feel at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night, as a huge segment of the team's most dedicated fans came together to celebrate a watershed moment in franchise history. It was a night that clearly felt like a new beginning.
Johnson got an early escort into the stadium and then was astonished at the line of fans waiting to get in.
"I was like, 'What's going on?'" he said. "I didn't know there would be so many people here. There's a lot of excitement in this place about Buccaneer football. That just gets me more fired up to continue working to put something out there that they can be proud of."
The Buccaneers will start their offseason workouts in about two weeks, with the draft looming in May and training camp set for late July. The excitement over the team has already been building for weeks, however, thanks not only to the aggressive moves in free agency but to the buzz about the new uniforms.
"I can't believe how many people are here," said Darrell Bailey, a Bucs fan of nearly three decades who brought his son, Noah, with him to the stadium on Friday. "I thought this [event] would be kind of quiet and blank, but everyone showed up. And seeing [the uniforms] live and in person, they're great. The red is more vibrant. I love the orange accents, the way they kick out. I love the chrome face mask and the pewter on the jersey. All the colors come together as one major uniform, and I think it's awesome."
The Bucs opened the doors to the waiting fans at 6:30 on Friday night, and it didn't take long for the Club Lounge to fill up and the concession stands to get active. The Lounge lobby housed a fully-stocked team store with new-uniform merchandise that included jerseys bearing the names and numbers of McCoy, Martin, Lavonte David, Mark Barron, Vincent Jackson and Dashon Goldson. The vast majority of attendees arrived in the classic red-and-pewter jerseys and shirts, and many chose to enhance their Buc wardrobes with the newest items.
Bobby Bonomo, Jr. brought both his father, Bobby, Sr., and his son, Bobby III, to Friday's event. It was easily apparent to him that the Bucs' forward-looking approach to their uniforms was going to appeal to the next generation. The youngest Bonomo walked out of the stadium with a new #93 jersey on his back, celebrating his favorite player, and his father liked the look.
"It's a nice change," said Bonomo, Jr. "It's something different and new for the younger generation, and I like that. I've been a season ticket holder since the new stadium opened in 1998, and my son has been a Bucs fan since he was born. I like the color scheme, the way it integrates the orange and I like the new numbers. To me, change is good."
After about an hour to mingle and enjoy the concessions, Buc fans began to gather around the stage in the southwest corner of the Lounge. Gene Deckerhoff, the Voice of the Buccaneers, led a rousing half-hour of give-and-take with the Buccaneer players in attendance, which included holdovers Connor Barth, Da'Quan Bowers, Demar Dotson, Mason Foster, Steven Means, Eric Page, Bobby Rainey, Keith Tandy and Tim Wright as well as newcomers Johnson, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Josh McCown, Louis Murphy and Brandon Myers. The fans were also treated to a high-energy performance by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders, which ended in a dramatic exit in front of suddenly blazing stage lights.
Martin, McCoy and Verner then took the stage, barely visible as silhouettes in front of the bank of lights. As those bulbs dimmed, strobing spotlights emphasized the jerseys' reflective numbers, and eventually the players came into sharp focus in their various uniform combinations. The drama of the moment was emphasized by the dozens of fans who held their cell phones high, illuminated screens capturing video and still shots of a very important moment in franchise history.
After McCoy and company finished modeling the new uniforms, Buccaneers Co-Chairman Ed Glazer, Head Coach Lovie Smith and General Manager Jason Licht took the stage. Glazer, who was the driving force behind the two-year process that led to the Bucs' new look, described the team's motivations for making such a significant change.
"For us, this was about doing something different, something specific for the fans of Tampa Bay," said Glazer. "We wanted to create something that, when people see it, everybody knows right away that it's the Buccaneers."